Mark Your Calendar

Mark Your Calendar

October 25th…a nice fall Tuesday night when Bobby Knight is off somewhere celebrating his birthday, the fate of the Sun Belt Conference will be determined. Those Tuesday night games on ESPN2 are not always the most exciting games to most fans, but even the casual football fan should at least set the DVR for this one. That is the night the Trojans of Troy visit Florida International with the Sun Belt title likely on the line.

A year ago the Trojans lost at home to FIU by a score of 52-35. Troy does not lose at home very often and the loss to the upstart Golden Panthers may have signified a shift in power in the Sun Belt. The Trojans will attempt to put an end to that hope on October 25th, while Coach Mario Cristobal will try and continue the blossoming of the Golden Panthers program. FIU has not been around very long and their bowl win over Toledo last season was not just their first ever bowl victory, but their first every bowl appearance. Troy has been to a bowl game five of the last seven seasons.

Troy’s Achilles heel last year was its rush defense. It was bad all season long, but Coach Cristobal took full advantage of the weakness. The team as a whole rushed for an amazing 448 yards against Troy’s porous defense. Darriet Perry rushed for 186 yards and a score and backup Darian Mallary added 118 yards and a trip to the end zone. But FIU had a few tricks up their sleeve and receiver T.Y. Hilton rushed six times for 158 yards and two scores. The success on the ground meant veteran quarterback Wesley Carroll did not need to throw very often. But when he did throw the ball, it was effective as he tallied 220 yards and three scores on just eight completed passes. Coach Larry Balkeney and his Troy defense could do nothing to stop big play after big play and he will have to deal with all the same playmakers again this season.

Despite Troy’s awful defense, they were only down ten points heading into the fourth quarter. Young Troy quarterback Corey Robinson was having a good game with a couple touchdown passes under his belt. However, his two interceptions proved to be a couple big turning points in the game. This year Robinson is a year older and a year wiser, but that may not be enough to keep up with the FIU offense unless the Trojan defensive front seven can step up their game.

For both Florida International and Troy, this game will set the tone for their conference season. This should be the big game where the winner is in the driver’s seat to win the conference. A year ago both teams finished at 6-2 in SBC play. The winner of the October 25th matchup will look to have the title all to themselves this year. And it may decide if the old conference favorites stay on top for the foreseeable future or if the new guys are here to stay.


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